‘We could replace the Petri dish’: FreshDetect's disruptive food safety tech

By Katy Askew contact

- Last updated on GMT

FreshDetect wants to shake-up the food testing market
FreshDetect wants to shake-up the food testing market
FreshDetect has developed a hand-held device that accurately measures bacterial contamination in food quickly and inexpensively. According to managing director Oliver Dietrich the innovation “creates a new dimension in food safety”.

FreshDetect has big ambitions to shake up the food safety testing market. The Pullach-based company has developed the BFD-100, a portable device for the rapid and precise quality control of food products.

The devise currently determines bacterial contamination in raw meat. The non-invasive, fluorescence spectroscopy measurement ascertains the TVC within seconds with a level of accuracy that the company claims is similar to standard microbiological methods.

The result is displayed in colony-forming unit (CFU) centre metre squared. It can handle up to 2,000 measurements before the data has to be transferred to a PC. The TVC results are output and saved together with the temperature, date and time of the measurement and a sequential test number.

Importantly it can be used across the entire production cycle, from the slaughter house to the meat counter.

“On the basis of fluorescence spectroscopy, the new handheld measuring device facilitates a practical, reliable and cost-effective rapid test method. It is digital, easy to use and allows an unlimited number of measurements. The handheld laboratory determines the quality of meat within a few seconds by means of the TVC and provides results with accuracy comparable to conventional microbiological tests in the lab.

"Thus it is the first device to enable quantitative, comprehensive and preventive quality and process control measures, from the slaughter to the meat counter,”​ Dietrich said.

Fast, reliable and cost-effective

The company said the BFD-100 is the first portable measurement device for swiftly determining the microbiological quality of food. And, in a contamination scenario, speed is of the essence for food makers.

“The current determination of total viable count (TVC – amount of bacteria) in laboratories outlined by §64 of the LFGB (German Food and Feed Code) takes about 72 hours to properly determine contamination. This renders impossible any process control that is based on food contamination. The FreshDetect handheld device needs only three to five seconds for the same process, which is much more cost efficient and does not need scientific trained operators or lab technicians,"​ Dietrich told FoodNavigator.

This will provide food makers with additional information to inform decision-making, as well as cutting costs, he continued. “With the FreshDetect device, any number of high precision tests can be carried out resulting in a precise knowledge about the individual situation of the production lines. With this information products of higher quality and lower production costs become possible.”

For Dietrich, the development can be used to address some key challenges facing the industry: food safety and food waste.

“Six hundred million people, about one in ten, in the world fall ill after consuming bacteria contaminated food. Of these, 420,000 people die, including 125 000 children under the age of five years,”​ he stressed.

“Worldwide approximately one-third of all food produced is lost or wasted, requiring cropland area the size of China and being responsible for 8% of all global Greenhouse Gas Emissions. The EU wastes every year 88 million tons of food, related with costs estimated to be €143 billion.

“FreshDetect aims to contribute to a solution of these problems with the first mobile handheld device developed for rapid determination of the microbiological quality of food.”

EU backs development through Horizon2020

The German high-tech start-up has secured the support of the European Union as part of its Horizon2020 project.

The company will receive a grant this month to enable it to expand its market reach within the European Union.

“The goal of the EU funding is to bring our current handheld device (BFD-100) to business success with commercialisation to all of our potential users. The project will provide us the necessary resources to broaden our accessible market by adapting our calibration sets to the biodiversity of further EU countries and therefore spreading the device throughout Europe (regional markets).”

FreshDirect believes that the potential market demand within the pork sector alone is significant.

“Starting with pork meat and having analysed the top ten food processing European countries. FreshDetect’s market potential is 284,000 devices with a market volume of €3.5bn. The target users are slaughterhouses, cutting plants, meat processing companies, retailers, wholesalers, butcher and gastronomy as well as the official food inspection.

“Due to limited resources we will concentrate in the beginning on specific, addressable small segments (beachheads) in order to create success stories which subsequently will help to reach a broader customer group. This approach should help crossing the chasm,”​ Dietrich revealed.

Meat is ‘just the beginning’

Pork is "just the beginning​", according to the managing director. The company plans to use the EU funding to add additional functionality to its proprietary technology.

“FreshDetect will successively expand its applications to include other food such as fish, dairy products, fruit and vegetables. The focus is not only on bacterial contamination, but also on the detection of pesticides, herbicides, origin, age (degree of ripeness) and other factors. Perhaps the portable measurement device will one day completely replace the Petri dish for TVC detection, thus letting even consumers test the quality of the food in the store before buying it.”

Related topics: Food Safety & Quality, Food safety

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